By day, Timothy Heppner works for his town’s Parks and Wreck Department, demolishing historical buildings; by night, he compiles genealogies helping his fellow Mennonite families trace back their roots. Heppner is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the fictitious protagonist in a new book by Andrew Unger.
Well known across certain parts of the country for writing the satirical Mennonite website, The Daily Bonnet, Unger has penned a new novel that is hitting bookshelves today. Though it is technically his second published work, Unger considers Once Removed to be his first debut: a book that, he says, will leave readers “laughing, crying a little bit, but mostly laughing.”
According to Unger, Once Removed echoes the snarky commentary on Mennonite life so closely associated with his Daily Bonnet articles, but takes it a step further by weaving it into a long-form narrative. The book’s star Timothy Heppner lives and works in a small Mennonite community called Edenfield that may be laughably familiar to readers who share his heritage.
“You might recognize yourself in a lot of characters,” says Unger. Many of the books supporting characters are based on Mennonite archetypes he says he has personally observed throughout the years.
The story’s central plot point hinges around the dissonance between Heppner’s objective and his job. As Unger notes, the desire of Heppner to preserve his town’s historical records is at odds with his occupational mandate to destroy old buildings.
“It kind of creates this conflict, both internally and externally,” he says, stressing at the same time its general hilarity. "It's like 80 per cent comedy and 20 per cent serious... like my very best satire articles."
Unger’s official book launch will be held virtually at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. Those hoping to directly participate in the Zoom call are invited to register on the McNally Robinson website. The book itself can be purchased at the store or online.